Government proposes changes to Forest Act
Part of: Prelims and GS II – Policies and interventions and GS-III – Environment
Context The Union Government has proposed exempting agencies which are involved in national security projects and border infrastructure projects from obtaining prior forest clearance from the Centre.
- This proposal is a part of amendments to the existing Forest Conservation Act (FCA). The document is open to public discussion for 15 days after which it could be readied for Cabinet and parliamentary approval.
- The FCA, which first came in 1980 and was amended in 1988, requires such permission.
What are the recent proposals?
- To exempt land acquired before 1980 by public sector bodies such as the Railways.
- As of today, a landholding agency (Rail, NHAI, PWD, etc.) is required to take approval under the Act and pay stipulated compensatory levies such as Net Present Value (NPV), Compensatory Afforestation (CA), etc. for use of such land which was originally been acquired for non-forest purposes.
- To make offences under the modified Act punishable with simple imprisonment for a period which may extend to one year and make it cognisable and non-bailable.
- Provisions for penal compensation to make good for the damage already done.
- Removing zoos, safaris, Forest Training infrastructures from the definition of “non-forestry” activities.
What is Forest Conservation Act (FCA)?
- The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 (FCA, 1980) ensures conservation of forest and its resources.
- It was enacted to control the ongoing deforestation of the forests of India.
- It came into force on October 25, 1980 containing five sections.
- The Act restricts the state government and other authorities to take decisions first without permission from the central government.
- It gives complete authority to the Central government to carry out the objectives of the act.
- The Act levies penalties in case of violations of the provisions of FCA.
- It will have an advisory committee which will help the Central government with regard to forest conservation.